Since running my first 100 mile race in May I knew that I wanted to do something on my own. Away from an event environment as I believe I thrive in both environments yet in very different ways and to run on my own for that amount of time was something I felt very drawn too.
The 5 mile loop around Stone Henge was a route I had ran quite a lot as it is local to me, and every time my heart knew it was where I would carry out my 24 hour run. I felt more than ready as I had already ran 100 miles in May, and since then a few shorter ultras and a 100k so my conditioning is always there as I stay consistent. So one day I was on the course with some friends. I think I ran about 4 laps, so 20 miles and shared my idea on Facebook putting it out into the universe, then I felt a deep feeling of now is the time. The date set was the 22nd and the 23rd July!
This was the original route and for the first two laps we (Me and Dave) had the van parked at Wood Henge. This is quite an isolated spot and meant he didn’t really have much vision except for the grass path that cut across the field.
I set out on this adventure with only time in mind. I ran my 100 miler in 27 hours so 100 miles wasn’t really something I thought about however the elevation on my 100 mile event was HUGE around 10,000ft in the last 50 miles itself!
My feelings in the run up to this challenge were very different to those of West Country and I think the main reason was because it was no longer a stranger. I felt very relaxed and more excited than nervous. The distance is inside me and I know how it feels now. That feeling only an ultra runner will feel, some call the pain cage! Most of the time I look forward to this point as I know my mind is stronger than the pain. I machine through it and the pain becomes a part of me. It doesn’t make me want to stop or give up because it is all part of taking on such large challenges, and to experience this outside of an event when I could have just said F*^K it I’m going home I felt even more determined!! I no longer fear this pain.
We set of at 7am on the Saturday morning and I had two friends Nat and Eva joined me for my first two laps. Averaging in at around a 10.30 min mile pace I was in my all day long cage. Which is where I sat for the first 50-60 miles, and well into the evening. I had a few welcomed slower laps when my parents joined me for a while but as you can see I was pretty comfy.
With having the van appear every 5 miles during the day I wanted to do at least 15 miles before stopping so I went round 3 times and whilst I was on route my gorgeous Dave was at costa drive through getting coffee lol!! So I stopped and just had a Soya Latte and a flap jack in the van as it was raining for most of the day and pretty heavy too!! It was nice having the van there as I got the keep dry on admin stops. We also decided to move the base camp to the track (far left track on the map) This was such a great location as Dave had eyes on the whole of that left hand loop, the route goes around the stones then a short climb onto the high ground along the tree line and back through the field.
Me with my parents around mile 30 behind base camp (the van)
Yes we have matching socks!! :O)
So that was me, round and round and round and round. I got asked a few times by randoms if it was boring or what do I think about? I knew I wouldn’t be bored because I could have been running anywhere, the idea was to run for 24 hours and to learn as much as I could from the experience. It taught me about being present with myself. I tried really hard to not look forwards or backwards with regards to miles and just run, like I always do, just in a circle and for 24 hours! These long runs to me are so symbolic of who I am especially doing them on my own and as I have said before I never feel like quitting or stopping until my task is done! Running on my own for this length of time I am totally with myself. Not subconsciously clinging onto anyone else’s pace or energy.
I stopped for lunch at around mile 30 and ate with my parents. Dave cooked me some pasta and I probably stopped for longer than I would have liked. And certainly longer than I would have stopped for if it was an event. But it didn’t matter until the end when I thought DANG if I didn’t stop for as long I would have smashed 100 miles haha!! When I say long it must have been about 45 mins. But it’s all accumulative! I also stopped for dinner at about 7.30pm and had exactly the same only cold lol!!! Dave was asking if I wanted hot pasta with mushrooms and sauce and whatever else but it literally made my stomach churn lol so just went with the plain cold pasta.
I train on food and always have and I have my periods when I struggle and it’s usually between 11pm and about 3am, this is when my appetite drops, so my usual night-time running drill is to just pop a tailwind into my water and this does me fine. I also try to eat if I can, smoothies are great for me at night and also orange juice!!! I LOVE orange juice when running. Luckily this time round I was fine and managed to have a dirty pot noodle at about 2am lol and was also munching on ginger biscuits and fig rolls, another pixie go too.
Night time came, the rain stopped and the sky cleared and it was warm enough to keep my shorts on I just put a long top layer on!! when I say cleared I mean you could see every single star in the sky!! It was amazing. We shortened the route to the 3 mile loop.
Dave joined me until my friend Charis arrived at 11.30. She ran with me until about 3 which was amazing, then Dave carried on until the sun just started coming up then he stopped at the van to get the coffee on hahaha!!! The night-time was so breath taking!!! the fog that lingered was around all night, dipping down into the low ground I literally felt it hit my whole body inside and out, then coming back onto the high ridge the air just warmed instantly it was unreal!!
Stopping and starting wasn’t really an option other than to take a swig of coffee I had in my flask or to have a bite of a fig roll or ginger biscuit. So stopping for 5 mins was the longest I could take due to getting my legs going again was a lot of come on, come on, let’s go, fuck, ouch……and that’s better lol!! My body would also become freezing and I would find myself shivering uncontrollably until I got going again then I fine. Weeing was now “I’m just gonna wee slightly bent down and hope for the best” smelling remotely nice was not even a concern and squatting was not an option but I knew this time would come from remembering the West Country 100 lol!! I don’t know if it’s just me but I was weeing 3-4 times per loop, and each loop was 3 miles during the night, so yeah I was weeing A LOT!! my bowls were busy during the day, I got a few day time laughs emerging from bushes having had a poo!! but they didn’t know I was pooing of course, just me lol!! another joy of ultra running. No Neil if your reading this I was weeing when I came out the bushes and spotted you lol (Neil ran around half a loop with me as part of a 25 mile training run he was doing) I have come to the conclusion that it’s toxins! the amount of lactic acid in my body it’s gotta leave from somewhere!
It got to early hours and I was hitting 75 ish miles and knew I could potentially hit 100 miles but just carried on with my pace and I managed to run the whole thing, the whole 24 hours other than admin stops I was running so taking into consideration my stops I know in my head how far I could have went and that was fine this time round as I was running for time. My night-time pace was around a 11-12 min average with fatigue, limited vision and having ultra zombie legs lol I like my consistency when looking at my day and night splits, and certainly took a lot from the wonderful experience.
The morning came and I finished off the last few laps on my own. I had two hours left and was on 87 miles and knew I would finish on around 95 miles. I remember feeling really chilled and happy knowing the 24 hours was coming to an end. I voice whatsapped Dave and requested a coffee and my flip-flops and kept on plodding until I was done. Post run I recovered a lot better compared to West Country. I was back running 4 days after and ran a 35 mile ultra just 2 weeks after. Shout out to Albion Running and the Mendip Marauder!! GREAT RACE and close to my heart as it was my first 50 mile ultra last year and this year Dave ran the 30 so I helped him out. That’s for another blog lol!! I totalled 93 miles on this 24 hour effort xx
I am beginning to learn that I am capable of so much more than I sometimes give myself credit for. Physically, emotionally and academically! I apply to university this year to study dietetics and I hope they see something special inside of me because I know I will work hard and get that degree!! I see myself graduating all the time, in the same way as I saw myself crossing the finish line on my first 100 mile run!! I have already achieved so much in my mind. I know exactly where I want to be. I just need to work bloody hard to get myself there!!